Criticizing the Qur'an has been the norm among non-Muslims since day one. All those who do not believe in it are entitled to question its validity and prove it wrong. In a free market place of ideas, anyone may say almost anything about the Qur'an and Islam. However, it is the way one presents his views that makes it worthy of objective debate or turns it into a pure insulting and misleading work - only good for burning bridges of trust, compassion and understanding within a volatile global order.
The latest high-profile assault on the authenticity of the Qur'an came from one of the main organs of the so-called mainstream media. Recent issue of Newsweek, July 28, 2003 has published an article titled "Challenging the Qur'an." A closer look reveals the main problem lies as much with the unrecognized group of German scholars dedicated to producing a "new interpretation of the Qur'an," as it lies with the Newsweek.
There can be two kind of responses to the Newsweek's article. One, to respond to the ways in which it challenges the authenticity of the Qur'an and two, to see how Newsweek has taken the responsibility of this assault on the Qur'an and spreading hate on its shoulders.
As far as the chief hypothesis of Luxenberg et al -- that the original language of the Qur'an was not Arabic but something closer to Aramaic -- is concerned even a short response from Dr. Maher Hathout is sufficient to shot it down before it could take off. (1) Luxenberg argues, "Arabic did not turn up as a written language until 150 years after Muhammad's [PBUH] death." A cursory research may reveal, the Arabic script evolved from the Nabataean Aramaic script. It has been used since the 4th century AD, but the earliest document, an inscription in Arabic, Syriac and Greek, dates from 512 AD, whereas Muhammad (PBUH) was born around 570 AD.(2) The earliest manifestation of a script form, which can be identified as Arabic, is on a tombstone at Nemara in the Syrian desert, dated A.D. 328. (3)
Luxenberg work will not stand the test of historical facts and would face many touchstones when it arrives later this year. It is a centuries old debate and too much reserach has already been done to answer allegations and exaggerations of Luxenberg work. Some links to this work is given at the end of this article.
The most important aspect of the latest assault to analyse is the way Newsweek has presented this work with the objective to associate the Qur'an and Islam with violence. This trend of glamourising the hate-Islam work in mainstream media will continue if not properly addressed in time.
Newsweek has effectively achieved in 710 words what is costing Luxenberg and company many years and hundreds of pages to accomplish. The common objective boils down to conveying that the Qur'an is a misinterpreted historical document and Islam is nothing but a historical construction that only severs to perpetuate violence.
The author starts working on this objective right from the by-line of the article. He makes a reference to "virgins" to develop a link with suicide bombers and the opening para then makes the theme abundantly clear.
The article brings September 11 into the discussion right away and quickly moves on to Palestine to establish that in both cases the culprits are Muslims alone and the motive is nothing but sexual gratification in paradise.
Needless to say Muslims are going to be disturbed and justifiably angered by the abuse of Luxenberg's work when it appears later this year. In the meanwhile, Newsweek has sown the seeds for undermining the image of Islam and provoking reactionary responses.
The conclusion that Luxenberg group would like the public to reach at is not new. Pro-Israel literature is filled with this kind of polemics. And Islamic scholars with irrefutable arguments and evidence have answered it. The phenomenal global growth of Islam, through conversions not migration is indicative of their effective work and the futility of anti-Islam propaganda.
The problem at hand is actually with Newsweek, which is engaged in the same tactics based on which Al-Jazeera is banned in most liberal countries, such as Canada.
The basic argument against Al-Jazeera is that it spreads hatred. A reader of the Newsweek article sees the same very clearly in its pages. It is typical of the discursive assault on Islam which has been the hallmark of the last 30 years. It is so virulent and consistent in spreading hatred that its hostility and venom can only be compared to the actual hatred of Islam that prompted the Crusades.
Newsweek believes that when Luxenberg work "is published this fall, it's likely to be the most far-reaching scholarly commentary on the Qur'an." We need to look at this statement from two perspectives. One, not many of the readers of the Newsweek article are going to be Muslims with weak faith who will simply discard their faith based on this article. Two, for non-Muslims, just the title and the opening paragraph of the article is enough to further confirm what they are incessantly subjected to by media outlets. Many may not even bother to go through Luxenberg book. The objective is achieved.
A little journalistic trick helps the author guide his reader to a particular conclusion. The author avoids using the word "fundamentalists" but leads the reader to conclude that Muslims are not at the same wavelength about the Qur'an. The article says: "Islamic orthodoxy considers the holy book to be the verbatim revelation of Allah, speaking to his prophet, Muhammad, through the Angel Gabriel, in Arabic." A Western mind, used to the daily classifying Muslims does not take "orthodoxy" as Islamic doctrine. It quickly concludes that only "orthodox" Muslims look at the Qur'an in the aforementioned manner.
In fact, all those who believe in the Qur'an can very well see it emphasizing at no less than 10 occasions that it is revealed in Arabic (12:02, 13:37, 16:103, 20:113, 26:195, 39:28, 41:03, 42:07, 43:03, 46:12).(4) Muslims who care little about their faith can find more prudent reasons to leave. It nevertheless helps achieve the unstated objective of spreading hate against Muslim. The general audience of Newsweek is not knowledgeable enough about the Qur'an to actually see how the magazine sees an opportunity in Luxenberg work to use it for undermining Muslim faith.
Proving the Qur'an diluted and misunderstood is beyond the scope of Luxenberg's book, let alone a single Newsweek article. However, this is not the objective. The article has been successful in perhaps dissuading non-Muslims who might be beginning to take interest in Islam and provide a rationale for those who were looking for ruses to tighten noose around practicing Muslims.
How should Muslims respond to such assaults. If Muslims live by the Qur'an, they would not even feel the need to respond to Luxenberg's half-backed assertions, such as "an expanding Arab empire turned Muhammad's teachings into the basis for its new religion long after the Prophet's death."
Furthermore, all Islamic organization, particularly those of N. America, need to come together and start working on exposing such hate mongering pieces not as a threat to the Qur'an and Islam but to the survival of Muslims as equal human being under the prevailing circumstances. The work of anti-Qur'an crusaders does not lead to occupations of Muslim lands and the so-called war on terrorism. The latest presentation by Newsweek, a mixture of hate and half quotes from anti-Islam work, definitely does.
Suicide bombing will not go away with proving "houris" as "white raisins." There are many other ways to have "houris" and die a peaceful death. The reason bombers choose to blow themselves from limb to limb is not because they love to quickly reach "houris," but because they hate to live under the occupation and repression - the direct results of injustice and polices based on hate and racism. The type of article recently published by Newsweek simply sustains and promotes this hate.
August 09, 2003.
1. Hathout, Maher, "Response to 'Challenging the Quran' Article in Newsweek" Islam on Line
2. See: http://www.omniglot.com/writing/nabataean.htm, http://www.omniglot.com/writing/syriac.htm, and http://www.omniglot.com/writing/greek.htm
3. Alfred Beeston,"Origin of Arabic Script," The Arabic Language Today, See: http://www.arabiccalligraphy.com/resources_detail.php?resId=4
'We have sent it down as an Arabic Qur'an, in order that ye may learn wisdom." Al-Qur'an 12:02.
4. Thus have We revealed it to be a judgment of authority in Arabic. Wert thou to follow their (vain) desires after the knowledge which hath reached thee, then wouldst thou find neither protector nor defender against Allah. " Al-Qur'an 13:37.
"We know indeed that they say, "It is a man that teaches him." The tongue of him they wickedly point to is notably foreign, while this is Arabic, pure and clear." Al-Qur'an 16:103,
"Thus have We sent this down - an arabic Qur'an - and explained therein in detail some of the warnings, in order that they may fear Allah, or that it may cause their remembrance (of Him)." Al-Qur'an 20:113,
"Verily this is a Revelation from the Lord of the Worlds: With it came down the spirit of Faith and Truth - To thy heart and mind, that thou mayest admonish. In the perspicuous Arabic tongue." Al-Qur'an 26:193-195.
"(It is) a Qur'an in Arabic, without any crookedness (therein): in order that they may guard against Evil." Al-Qur'an 39:28
"A Book, whereof the verses are explained in detail;- a Qur'an in Arabic, for people who understand." Al-Qur'an, 41:03
"Thus have We sent by inspiration to thee an Arabic Qur'an: that thou mayest warn the Mother of Cities and all around her,- and warn (them) of the Day of Assembly, of which there is no doubt: (when) some will be in the Garden, and some in the Blazing Fire." Al-Qur'an 42:07.
"We have made it a Qur'an in Arabic, that ye may be able to understand (and learn wisdom)." Al- Qur'an 43:03.
"And before this, was the Book of Moses as a guide and a mercy: And this Book confirms (it) in the Arabic tongue; to admonish the unjust, and as Glad Tidings to those who do right." Al-Qur'an 46:12.
Resources on Authenticy of the Qur'an
The Authenticity of the Qur’an
Material on the Authenticity of the Qur’an & Proofs that it is a Revelation from Allah
How do we know that the Quran we have toda is the word of God?
Proofs that the Qur'an is a Revelation from Allah
Is the Quran a Divine Revelation or Contrived by man?
Authenticity of the Holy Qur’an By: Shaikh ‘Abdur-Raheem Green
PROOF THAT THE QURAN IS THE WORD OF GOD
AN UNDENIABLE PROOF
The Qur'ânic Manuscripts In Museums, Institutes, Libraries & Collections